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I Spy A Seacow

Carriage workshop blog, March 2021


I really didn’t expect to be waiting three months before writing another carriage workshop blog, so my apologies to any regular readers who were waiting with baited breath for the next dispatch from the east end of Ropley! I need not explain too much of the situation which delayed it, we all know the strange times the pandemic has provided. Even with the reduced staffing caused by the lockdown through the first three months of the year, the carriage workshop has been a very busy place, with some work finally happening that has been waiting in the wings a long time!

One of the bigger jobs which was taken on through January was working on a seacow, a bogie ballast wagon built around 1973. Due to the fairly major track work being done at the country end of Alresford station, we needed a bit more capacity for transporting and depositing ballast. The brief was to get the doors and brakes working, along with a few patches to the main hopper, but as is typical the job got bigger as the work went on and the guys tell me it fought them the entire way! With an awful lot of noise, heat and rust, it ended up in being a case of jacking up the wagon and removing the bogies to attend to the brakes, which we think may be the first wagon lifted on the railway (though happy for those with longer memories to correct us if not).

We have also had a couple of carriages in the workshop with us for light repairs. MK1 RMB 1851 was in during January and February for some investigative surgery. Water tank leaks and ride height adjustments were seen to, and the roof needed some TLC as nobody enjoys being dripped on. Following in its footsteps is MK1 TSO 3769 which needed some work on its windows and battery boxes, a good few patches on the roof and the removal of the water tanks from the former toilet area. The toilets were taken out some years ago, but the tanks left in. While working on the roof it seemed prudent to remove the tanks, as they may well come in useful on other vehicles which still have their toilets.

Finally, after a few weeks out while locomotive stock was stored in the workshop during the lockdown, Bulleid open third 1456 is back in the workshop, and this should be for the final time. We really are on the home straight now, the first luggage rack was fitted permanently on Monday 15th March, and I’m so pleased to say that they are now all in place. This has been something of an epic job, and regular readers will know just how long I’ve been talking about (and working on) the racks. Each one was built up on the benches outside the carriage, which felt somewhere between fishing and knitting, then after a little bit of touch up on the varnish each one was installed in the carriage. Most importantly they aren’t coming out again!

On other nice interior touches, Gordon has been busy putting the timber beading around the tables for both this vehicle and brake 4367 which will follow it into the workshop once 1456 is done. We didn’t have original tables to work from, but we’ve taken as much information as we could from photos and drawings, to recreate tables as close as possible to what we think were originally in the carriages. Each has a timber edging, which to save time we had drawn up on CAD, then cut on a CNC router by the chaps up at Tin Shed Scenery near Basingstoke, who did a really smashing job. This saved an awful lot of work, especially on the curved corners, but it’s still been quite a task to get them all fitted. Once the varnish goes on they are going to look really quite something, and will finish off the interior of the passenger saloons perfectly.

Other than the tables, it is pretty much just some fitting out work in the toilet area to finish off. We’ve had to have a bit of a rethink regarding some steam heating in the toilets, but once that is in, along with the plumbing, we will really be there. Gordon and I are really looking forward to getting stuck into Bulleid Brake 4367 later on in the year, we’ve had a lot of fun on 4211 and 1456, so can’t wait to complete the trilogy with 4367! 

Finally, I should offer our congratulations to some of the team at the other end of the site, who have just finished work on one of the 08 shunters. Not often the most glamorous of locos, these shunters are vital bits of kit and 08288 is looking absolutely superb. I know that Gordon and I both did a bit of woodwork to help things along (me on the windows and Gordon on the door frames), but by the sounds of it, it has been something of an epic overhaul, and the whole team should be very proud of it. I’ll leave it to those involved to show more of the project, but wanted to say well done from all of us in the carriage shop.

That’s about it for this (three) month(s), I hope you are all staying safe. Hopefully we will be able to welcome back more of our regular volunteers in the not too distant future, and also see many more of you for the Steam Gala at the end of April.

Thanks for reading,


Photo gallery

  • Seacow in service

  • MK1 RMB 1851, in the works for investigative surgery and light repairs

  • MK1 TSO 3769, in for roof repairs and removal of water tanks

  • Water tanks removed from the former toilet are of 3769

  • Rob has been busy on the roof, welding up a fair few holes!

  • First permanently fitted luggage rack in Bulleid open third 1456, a momentous moment!

  • Gordon working on the table edgings for 1456 and 4367

  • A close up of Gordon’s work

  • All the racks in place, a real sight for sore eyes!

  • Another view of the long racks

  • Steam heat controls, no longer connected but an important interior detail

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